Oltmans asks for more in final against Japan after NZ hold Pakistan

Published May 11, 2024
IPOH: Pakistan’s Abu Bakr Mahmood attempts to 
cross under pressure from New Zealand’s Blair 
Tarrant during their Azlan Shah Cup match on Friday.
—courtesy FlashSukan
IPOH: Pakistan’s Abu Bakr Mahmood attempts to cross under pressure from New Zealand’s Blair Tarrant during their Azlan Shah Cup match on Friday. —courtesy FlashSukan

IPOH: Pakistan continued their unbeaten run at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a creditable 1-1 draw against New Zealand in their last round-robin mat­ch on Friday but coach Roelant Oltmans wasn’t a happy man. The experienced Dutchman is dema­nding more from his side in the Saturday’s final against Japan.

The finalists had already been decided before the last round of matches was played and Japan’s 3-1 win over Canada saw them finish two points above Paki­stan in the table.

Pakistan fell behind to Paris Olympics-bound New Zealand when Luke Hol­mes scored in the 35th minute but kept their unbeaten run intact thanks to Abu Bakr Mahmood’s penalty corner conversion eight minutes later.

“The first half was New Zealand’s and the second half was ours,” Oltmans told reporters after the ma­tch. “Our start was not good and we conceded two penalty comers in the first minute.

“But this cannot happen in the final against Japan. The players did very well in this tournament but I am not satisfied with our performances in the first half. We were terrible in ball possession. We lost it even before can could even dominate the game. It is not the way we should play. The boys came out really good and we created penalty corner opportunities. We managed to score even with one player less.

“The good things we learned here is that the boys have the right spirit to fight back when they come from behind. From now on I feel we should play like on a high note from the start and not only after we are trailing. Most of these players have played together in many matches and we also have seven from the 2023 Junior World Cup who are now slowing getting to understand the structure.”

In their last meeting against New Zealand at the Paris Olympics qualifiers in Oman, Pakistan had lost 3-2; a result that saw them miss out on the Games for the third time in a row. While result restores some belief for Pakistan, whilst also raising expectations back home, Oltmans said his side would not succumb to the pressure of ending their long international title drought.

“We don’t care about pressure because we are just here to play hockey,” he added. “I’ve been in this profession for too long, and I’ve always made sure that none of my boys are burdened by any pressure outside the turf.

“We are here for a reason and we know our directions well. We will definitely go home with the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, and we are not here to meet anyone’s expectations.

“If we play based on people’s expectations, I suggest we go home immediately as we will be beaten by three to four goals difference.

“It doesn’t make any sense to play for others. All I want from my players is to play for the team, and the only thing I expect from my players is to execute my plans. If we win tournaments, it’s good, and if we don’t…I’m sorry.

“But I can guarantee everyone back home in Pakistan that this team will go up, and these boys have the potential to do well for the country in the years to come.”

Pakistan and Japan had played out a 1-1 draw in their round-robin encounter and Oltmans expects another tight match in the final.

“Japan have neither scored many goals nor conceded many. They are a good side,” said the Dutchman. “We need to open them up. We have the players to do it, but it will not be easy. They are compact and organised defensively.

“Everyone in the competition has been trying to break down Japan, but they have done well to maintain their lead. We also need to be defensively organised. Our players are hungry for success and want to win this title. I hope to win the match in regulation time. However, it will be a good experience for the players if it goes to a shootout.”

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2024

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